I’m still working on a way to reply to comments while in Beijing, but in the meanwhile some thoughts on my first year at UNL…
In response to Younghusband’s post on what he gained from a year studying war in Canada, my thoughts on a year at UNL. Particularly, what I gained
Lady of tdaxp. True love. Worth everything.
Constructivism. I didn’t just throw this in to get a comment from Dr. Dan. No – that’s approach is amazingly, amazingly useful. Even though Political Scientists and Educational Psychologists never talk to each other, and thus don’t realize that the other field has “Constructivism” too, Constructivism is an incredibly powerful tool to pierce the magic cloud of existence. I see now how my happiest moments teaching, and my most successful moments teaching, tended to be the most constructivist moments teaching. Likewise, constructivism is the natural avenue for the introduction of Boydian cognition to Political Science. Have I said it is incredibly, incredibly useful?
Reading is not Comprehension. Younghusband’s remark that “ … ” inspired this point. Certain professors — not those that teach constructively, by the way — have a habit of assigning a large amount of reading and then not discussing it. They defend themselves — and this is as true in freshman level classes as in graduate ones — by saying it’s the student’s responsibility to read the material.
That attitude is as true as it is useless.
Good instructors — those who want to pass on rational understanding of material, not just their political biases and particular fetishes — use a constructivist, 360-style educational regime, focusing on peer interaction, instructor-student interaction, and student-class interaction. This does not have to involve any less class reading, or any less impressive final projects. Indeed, the three projects I am most proud of — my profile of Coming Anarchy, Redefining the Gap, and my profile of Thomas P.M. Barnett, came from classes taught constructively.
My worst experience comes from the read-and-memorize mentality.
Real comprehension takes worse. Much of what I blogged this academic year — the series Liberal Education comes to mind in particular — were attempts to constructively comprehend course material. Because I have only 24 hours in a day, I would often find myself having to choose between comprehending course material or memorizing course material. As I want to understand what I am learning, I chose the former and not the latter.
I Dislike Bureaucracies. Ok, this wasn’t a surprise. But it’s still true. The Health Center’s foot dragging on an identity theft against me was the lowest blow, but few bureaucratic interactions are pleasant.
Podcasts. Not academic, but already mentioned.
I Really Enjoy Teaching. I knew this before, but this year drove this into my skull. Teaching is the only activity, besides blogging, where I feel better and more energized afterwards than before. For most of my day, I spend energy to acquire enjoyment, understanding, whatever. But teaching is unique in that I am consistently more energized and more ready to go when I leave the classroom than when I enter.
And, of course
Lady of tdaxp. I already mentioned her. But I love her. So that’s worth at least two mentions.